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£13,770 when new
A new car review! Whut?! Most car reviews you’ve read recently are from the archive, from stuff we drove back in the days of FREEDOM. But I drove this Hyundai i10 yesterday. Oi! It’s because I had to run a medical errand that fell under the term ‘essential travel’. And, you could argue, the small Korean hatchback that was delivered to me hours before lockdown began is ‘essential transport’. See, prices start at £12,820. Which, once you climb a rung above Dacias with a gaping hole where there should be a radio, is what constitutes a modest amount of money in the car shopping world these days.
Really? Rewind 20 years - bunging its price tag backwards through an inflation calculator as you do so - and you end up with £7,500, which bought you either a Daihatsu Cuore or Kia Pride. Give this kinda cool looking little Hyundai a cursory glance and it would appear cars have got much better value in the last two decades, not worse. Inflation calculators? Are they what’s filling your days now? Um, no. Anyway. The i10. Hyundai’s weeniest car has reached its third generation, and it looks more interesting than ever. It still looks a bit too tall and narrow to feel ‘shrunken hot hatch’ rather than ‘OAP shuttle with LED running lights’, but they’ve tried harder than ever on the outside. And those four-spoke wheels are ace. Or have two weeks of looking at them through the kitchen window as I wash the dishes warped my mind? So you drove it… Getting in this after one my longest periods without driving since the 17 years before my first go is really getting into the spirit of the i10, too. If its potential buyers aren’t over 60, they’re probably under 20, seeking a first car that’s cheap to insure and easy to drive with little experience. So it’s a fine way to get back in the groove of using pedals and a big circular thing to travel places rather than mere shoes alone. Compared to walking, it feels wide, burly and uncouth. Compared to other cars it is precisely none of those things. Is it a bit tinny? Not at all. It’s very good at being a small car that feels all grown up, especially if you’ve specced the active safety stuff and heated wheel. It doesn’t cruise as nicely as a Volkswagen Up, thrashing away above 3,000rpm on a 70mph cruise, but the rest of the time it’s utterly polite. And it feels expensively damped, soaking up the troublesome road snaking out of my village better than any performance car I’ve yet taken on it. It even entertains, too, in the finest of thrashed-rental-car traditions. But it does so not via the driver’s management of slapstick body control and Converse-on-ice grip, but with genuinely tidy handling. It’s a cheery thing, this. An actual N hot hatch version would work. I think. This is not that, though… Far from it. It’s not a quick car, but there’s enough gusto for the new, inexperienced driver. I remember how entirely adequate a 54bhp Punto felt aged 17. In the i10’s quicker, 84bhp trim we have here, it’ll do 0-62mph four seconds quicker than My First Fiat. It’s practically a hypercar. With no turbo strapped abroad, you can’t be shy with the revs if you want to get places with any briskness, mind, but briskness isn’t what life’s about right now. Get home too quickly and you’ve only more time to fill with snacks and YouTube rabbit holes. And treated respectfully this is a smooth engine mated to a crisp gearchange. It toddles through town in an exemplary manner, as all of these titchy cars tend to, but it’s not suddenly agoraphobic when exposed to a more open road. Worth freeing, then. This is a thoroughly complete car, with the only real chink its armour - slowness - hardly a trifling matter for the kind of people throwing 12 grand here rather than at a used Fiesta ST. Given you can get an Up for a few grand less, it’s hard not to wonder if Hyundai’s priced it a little highly too. But it’s full of goodies and its tall, boxy style pays dividends if you want to put human people in the back, too. That’s trickier in the VW. As rivals around it go fully electric - or disappear from price lists altogether - cheap little petrol-powered cars begin to seem less and less like they’re classed ‘essential transport’. We’re pleased Hyundai sees differently, because this is A Good Car. One that’s back in lockdown now, of course. But next time I clean my pots and pans I’ll gaze at it with a newfound fondness. Score: 7/10
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